- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Saga Press (October 24, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1481495593
- ISBN-13: 978-1481495592
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr Hardcover – October 24, 2017
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A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2017 Selection
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Fall 2017 SF, Fantasy & Horror Selection
"Ka, is a beautiful, often dreamlike late masterpiece.
Elegiacal and exhilarating, Ka is both consoling and unflinching in its examination of what it means to be human, in life and death. If, as Robert Graves wrote, “There is one story and one story only,” we are very lucky that John Crowley is here to tell it to us." (-- The Los Angeles Times)
"John Crowley is one of the finest writers of our time.
In sum, Ka is just the kind of deeply moving, deeply personal “late work” that a great artist sometimes produces at the end of his or her career." (-- Michael Dirda, The Washington Post)
"One of the finest fantasy novels of the year, gains the power of a true epic." (-- The Chicago Tribune)
“John Crowley has long been one of our country's absolutely finest novelists, the equivalent in what could generally called Fantastika to John Le Carre in spy literature, and in KA he has given us a masterpiece in the form of a beast fable. Sentence by beautiful sentence, the book sustains its ravishing narrative above a constant awareness of the duality, partiality, and mystery of our own goals, desires, and excitements. An entirely grown-up wisdom and hard-won grace suffuse every scene. Quietly, subtly, the tale of Dar Oakley entertains its readers, for sure, but expands and enhances them as well.” (-- Peter Straub, New York Times bestselling author of INTERIOR DARKNESS and GHOST STORY)
"Covering thousands of years of human history, Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr may seem at times more like a chronicle than a tale, but the tales within it, from Dar Oakley’s own love stories, to his acerbically distanced view of human development, to the nearly self-contained tales of figures like Fox Cap, the Brother, Anna Kuhn, and the narrator himself, recapitulate its central themes of death, survival, and the value of story in ways that are as haunting and provocative as anything Crowley – or almost anyone else in the last several years – has written. It may be some sort of masterpiece." (-- Locus Magazine)
"This unusual narrative from Crowley ostensibly consists primarily of the recollections of a long-lived crow who’s capable of communicating with humans, one of whom named him Dar Oakley. Crowley cleverly grounds the book with a prologue recounted by an unnamed narrator in a near-future world on the verge of collapse from climate change; he recently lost his wife and is “mortally sick in more than body” himself. It’s never clear whether the human lead merely imagines all of Dar Oakley’s reminiscences, but this ambiguity sustains, rather than lessens, the reader’s engagement with Dar Oakley’s stories." (-- Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movie and found work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel The Deep in 1975, and his fifteenth volume of fiction, Four Freedoms, in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2006 he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print.
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If you're unfamiliar with Crowley's work, this might make a great starting point for his work, as it reads much more easily than his flagship pieces (Ægypt or Little, Big), and is highly entertaining. A man finds a sick crow, and nurses the bird back to health. In return, the crow tells the man its story, which begins in primitive times, and leads all the way up until (probably) the near future. The writing is beautiful and deliberate, in a way that seems to be falling out of favor in fantasy. The story is unique, mythic, and draws from history in ways that aren't always immediately apparent, but that are sure to entertain.
Ka is that way as well. I feel hesitant to describe it, there is so much more that I am prepared to sit here and write. But it's a beautiful story, especially meaningful to a person who muses, who worries, over death. Perhaps it's a story about what death has meant to humans over humankind's lifetime, our preoccupation with it, our obsession with those who have died esp. those who are "our people," our attempts to evade it, our stories about how death came about anyway.
In another way, it's a story about a certain loss of innocence and the ability to be completely present in this life. To a crow: dead is dead. Until he begins to strike up relationships with humans and becomes involved in their preoccupations for eternal life and caring for ancestors, saints, loved ones who have already died. Then his story ceases to be simply concerned with eating, nesting, and gossiping during the winter roost -- but becomes a human one: plenty of long journeys, loss, learning about grief, fleeting happiness, revenge, hard-won wisdom, acceptance. And filled with stories.
So it's also a story about stories. It's filled with them. Our creation stories, animal legends, personal mythologies.
It's so much more than a paltry review like this could convey. Beautifully written, as any reader of Crowley's would expect. Approachable, which some readers might not expect. Deeply satisifying, as few, few books are.
The entire time I was reading it, I felt that John Crowley had purposely written this book as a gift to his readers: past, present, and future. I thought it might be... a swan song. Or not.
John Crowley’s work is not something for a lazy afternoon. You cannot speed-read it without either stumbling over insights and perceptions that turn your world on its ear or missing them entirely. KA is an incredible mixture of history, fiction, myths and legends of several cultures. For example, the narrators are unreliable, unless you’re willing to take a leap of faith. Remember, this is a fantasy.
There is at least one retelling of the myth of Orpheus and two other journeys to Hell or someplace like it. There is the observation that we are partly the perceptions of others, like it or not. The entire book is loaded with such thought-provoking and evocative insights.
I will stop here to not spoil the discoveries you will make (some of which will almost certainly be very different from mine) but if you are looking for a book that is challenging but ultimately very rewarding, I cannot recommend this book too highly.
type of mood" because there is plenty enough of that.
Dar Oakley cannot even be referred to by his whole real name throughout the book so that should be a hint to readers that he will not be an easy protagonist to appreciate. The entire construct is weak when you realize the book is simply a lengthy version of "A crow walked into a bar....."
Preoccupation with death has produced many an interesting and lively novel; of which this is not one